Not Just for Casuals: Five Hardcore Wii Games

Nintendo made their Wii U announcement last week, and I watched listened to it while otherwise diligently keeping on task at my day job. I’m not going to get into my initial reactions in this piece, though I’m perfectly happy to engage in a discussion in the comments if anyone wants to get the ball rolling. I don’t know how many Wii owners/players we’ve got lurking around Unreality. Hopefully a solid handful, considering the subject matter of this article.

As I ruminated on the pros and cons of investing in Nintendo’s newest system, I realized I hadn’t written up a piece I pitched Paul months ago listing five Wii games that would satisfy the hardcore gamer. Timing is everything, they say, so without further ado:

1. The Conduit

As far as first-person shooters go, The Conduit doesn’t offer anything too revolutionary. The storyline is something we’ve all seen before: aliens have invaded, the U.S. government may be involved, you’re a super agent from a shadowy subset of the U.S. government. However, though it’s familiar, the storytelling is absolutely solid. The fact that this is a Wii exclusive title, and not just a crappy port of another FPS franchise means it runs smoothly and has great-looking graphics to boot. Obviously that comes with the “it’s still a Wii” caveat, but honestly—the graphics push the little white box’s limits in a good way.


What I find fantastic about this game is its insanely deep control customization. First-person shooters are my major weakness as a gamer, so I was thrilled to discover I could customize the tiniest details of my control scheme—ON THE FLY. I would pay a premium to have that ability in every FPS, no joke.

2. Red Steel 2

If you’ve played the original Red Steel, hear me out. If you haven’t, don’t bother. The two games are hardly related, in either story or gameplay, and that’s a really good thing. The first game was downright awful, but Red Steel 2 is actually a terrific first-person shooter with pretty great controls. And it actually looks gorgeous. No “it’s still a Wii” caveat, it is crazy good looking. Ubisoft really worked within the Wii’s limitations to produce a surprising stunner. Stylistically, it can’t be beat either, taking cues from the Old West and blending them with Japanese samurai influences. Same goes for the soundtrack, which is outstanding. It’s also got one of the best opening sequences of any game I’ve ever played (jump to :37):


Red Steel 2 was one of the first Wii games to be made with the Wii MotionPlus feature in mind, and it really shows. You’ll use a combination of gunslinging and katana swinging for combat, and while the shooting could be tighter, the MotionPlus makes fighting with the katana a real pleasure. Fair warning: you can easily get worn out fighting some of the stronger enemies, especially in the earlier parts of the game. Or you may just accidentally knock things off your coffee table.

3. Xenoblade Chronicles

Not a fan of JRPGs? This ain’t your bag. See you at #4. If JRPGs are your bag, have I got an amazing game for you. Unfortunately this was released in the U.S. in April of this year, just in time to watch the Wii go into its death throes. This. Game. Is. Epic. Deep story, deep combat, fantastic music and voice acting. The setting is also ridiculously awesome. The world is set on a giant robot that has been still for so long vegetation has begun to grow on it. This makes for some beautiful, naturalistic scenery to take in while roaming the surface (though you’re still reminded that you’re on a giant metal dude here and there), and once you venture into underground caverns, you get full-on sci-fi in your face.


The graphics are obviously not FF level stuff, but you will come upon some vistas that will take your breath away. The story is also tightly plotted, in spite of the open-world gameplay (hooray for non-linear RPGs!), which is refreshing. I’ve started and never finished many a JRPG simply because I grew weary of the story plodding along like some kind of ancient wildebeest. That being said, this game can easily last you 50+ hours, assuming you’re the type to do sidequests and not just stick to the main storyline. And if you’re playing a JRPG, you probably are.

4. MadWorld

This game is freaking awesome. Like a Frank Miller Sin City comic come to life, it’s black and white and red all over. It’s also under $10 over at amazon, so if you have a Wii and little to no aversion to violence, buy yourself a copy immediately. This is another example of insanely gorgeous graphics. Limitation breeds creativity, or so it goes, and the black and white color scheme starkly contrasted with the red blood (pretty much the only color in the whole game barring some yellow wording here and there) is stunning. The setting is an urban slum where the inhabitants participate in a thunderdome-style game show, fighting to the death for the ultimate prize: the antidote to the poison everyone’s been given.


The announcers are so great; I was legitimately cracking up all the time. I also really love the controls. MadWorld eschews any pointer work with the wiimote, relying instead on gestural controls that are ridiculously fun to perform. Talk about immersive, I really feel like I’m beating the crap out of a guy with a chainsaw strapped to my forearm. Hands down, one of the best ways to relieve stress after a long day.

5. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

This game wins all the points for immersion. Shattered Memories is an alternate universe style retelling of the original Silent Hill (which means there are some detractors, for sure) that masterfully utilizes the Wii’s unique controls. You control Harry with the control stick while the wiimote pointer becomes a flashlight. The menu (map, save files, hints) is taken care of in-game by Harry’s smart phone, which you control using the wiimote as well. Every time he has a phone conversation it comes through the tiny speaker in the wiimote. Merely a gimmick? Perhaps, but you will find yourself quite automatically bringing it up to your ear to listen to the otherworldly voicemails (or the static overtaking 911 dispatch, if you’re me and tried phoning for help). The phone/flashlight seriously added to the overall atmosphere of the game, which made it all the more enjoyable. You’ll run into several posters and bits of graffiti with phone numbers, and it’s worth it to call all of them.


The game is combat-less, so all you can do is run away or hide from the monsters. I totally prefer that kind survival horror game myself, since feeling helpless and panicked is half the fun. Add to that the fantastically immersive controls, great atmosphere, spot-on music (don’t let the music in the trailer fool you) and voice acting, and a frame story that has you complete a psych profile as the player—which changes the game to be scarier to you as you move along in the story—and you’ve got yourself a super solid psychological thriller that can actually get pretty deep. Here’s a hint: during your first playthrough, answer the shrink completely honestly. You’ll end up with a much deeper experience that way, and the game will become scary beyond the creepy naked things chasing you through the forest.

So I’m afraid I’m still up in the air about the Wii U. I’m a fan of Bayonetta, so I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on the sequel since it will be an exclusive, but otherwise there’s a real dearth of worthwhile titles available at launch, in my opinion. And I also own both an Xbox 360 and PS3, so it’s not like the 3rd party titles that span all the consoles are really getting my blood pumping. Then again, I look back at games like these five and realize there are developers that can creatively utilize the Wii’s motion controls. Maybe this will be the system that bridges the gap between casual and hardcore players. Maybe Nintendo will be the company that brings balance to the force.

What about you guys? Anyone preorder the Wii U? Or even better still, do you guys have any suggestions for non-kiddie games for the Wii? I’d be more than happy to add to my library, Wii U or no Wii U.

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  1. As a hapless Wii owner, I’ve played #1 through #3. I’m still chugging through Xenoblade and I’m at over 70 hours, but I’ve always taken JRPG’s at a slow pace. Liked all three of the games, with Conduit being the weakest. Red Steel 2 was wicked fun, just no real replay value. You probably should throw Last Story on to this list if Xenoblade made it. Last Story is great fun, shorter, but that’s not a bad thing in my mind as there’s less grinding. Last Story is a great game to introduce someone to JRPG’s, in my opinion.

    As for WiiU, I’m not sold. The biggest thing I wanted to hear from Nintendo, after seeing their last two consoles end with a whimper, was that they were confident they could compete with Xbox 720 and PS4. I haven’t heard that. Reports are that WiiU is barely more powerful then the current gen, and I haven’t seen an effective response to this from Nintendo. So I’m not pre-ordering, I’m going to wait and see how it actually stacks up to the big boys before I buy any next-gen console. I love Nintendo, but they’ve really let me down with Wii. I’ve bought 3 games for my Wii this year, Xenoblade, Skyward Sword, and Last Story, that’s it. Before that, it had been collecting so much dust. Once I finally get through Xenoblade, it will end up in the dustbin . . . well, unless I decide to replay Skyward Sword on Hero mode.

  2. You know, I’ve spent (wasted) more time than I’d care to think about reading console war arguments and this article may be the only one that was ever worth reading. Ever. I know you weren’t deliberately writing a console war argument, but any time you espouse the virtues of ANY console, you are entering that less than fragrant arena. I once wrote a review where I pointed out the large number of quality RPG’s on the 360 (at the time a lot of remarks said there were none) and got soundly rebuked for stoking the console war fire. People are really, really, reallyreallyreally sensitive about their consoles.

    I didn’t buy a Wii and I’ve got no designs thusfar on the WiiU, but funding Bayonetta sends a message that Nintendo may be willing to take us hardcore gamers back to where we want to be, and I applaud that. I’m unlikely to go back to Nintendo (I have no time or money for multiple consoles), as they still seem to be step behind on non-motion-control tech, plus this touch screen controller looks cumbersome at best, but they are in my thoughts at least. I’d like to play Monster Hunter and it’s been decades since I played as Samus Aran (which makes me kind of sad), but if Sony and Microsoft have Bethesda and Bioware, I’ve got to side with those unsavory characters. For now.

  3. J. Morales, I hear you about Red Steel 2’s lack of replay value. But replay possibilities never made or broke any games for me; I’m perfectly happy experiencing some games once and then passing them along to a friend. Same with some books, films, etc. Though with the ever-climbing price of video games these days, replay value is becoming understandably paramount. I haven’t played The Last Story yet, which is why I didn’t include it, but it’s definitely on my shortlist! I also see where you’re coming from with the Wii U. I’m pretty positive that I won’t be getting one before the end of the year, barring a Christmukkah gift of course. HINT TO HUSBAND.

    Though I don’t necessarily need Nintendo to compete with the other consoles—and this gets in to some of what you’re saying, trashcanman—since my only-child upbringing and gaming tolerant spouse have led me to owning all the consoles (it’s not an uneven match, we also have a giant woodworking bench in our living room). I do feel like Nintendo doesn’t have any idea where they want to be, since the Wii U is occupying some nebulous area between casual and hardcore marketing bases at the moment. Which means casual players may feel put off from shelling out that much money, and hardcore players will choose Sony or Microsoft over this relatively underpowered (and late to the game) console.

    Plus, what the hell is going on with only 32 gb of internal memory? That seems insane to me, as the Virtual Console was one of the Wii’s most successful endeavors, and they also seem ready to have the Wii U act as a mini DVR type of thing. Wouldn’t they want more internal memory right out of the gate? Did they spend all their money on the touch screen controller?

    Finally, I am definitely not writing a console war argument, believe me. The console war is something that I’m very aware of but don’t actually get on a personal level. I’m trying to be a video game journalist, so obviously I feel duty-bound to own every system to experience every great game there is. But that is not even close to a realistic solution for everyone—two of my consoles were wedding presents; there’s no way I can afford to just drop that kind of cash like it’s nothing.

  4. Just beat The Last Story last night. Took about 32 hrs compared to the 200 (no that is not a typo) I spent playing Xenoblade. Both are fantastic JRPG’s for the Wii. Great list Sara.

  5. Well sure, but that’s a pretty inelegant design choice, don’t you think? Especially if this is the Nintendo system that supposed to directly compete with Sony and Microsoft. I get having the 8 gb option for casual players, but I honestly thought the higher end option would have at least 160 gb to compete with the low-end PS3.

  6. As for the Wii U – It’s 300 bucks as it is, more storage would just make it more expensive. Why care about that when you can plug in a 1TB External HDD that isn’t even compatible with a PS3? I’d much rather buy a Wii U with no storage space and plug one of my External Hard Drives into it than spend 400 bucks for more space that’ll get used up by tons of digital games anyway.

  7. Because I feel like 300 bucks is too much for something that I’m going to have buy an external hard drive in order to use like I want, I suppose. I think their priorities are out of whack. They spent all their money on that touch screen controller, thus decided to present their “big boy” console with an $18 Best Buy Black Friday Special flash drive buried inside of it and no other controllers whatsoever. I’d hate to be someone buying my first Nintendo system.

    I bet I would totally agree with you on No More Heroes and Monster Hunter Tri, but I haven’t played either. I still stand by my sentiments on the rest of the list. Huzzah subjectivity! Great name, btw.

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